Life in today’s world is becoming more and more stressful. Consequently, stress management has assumed paramount importance.
Stress Management Techniques
There are rnany simple ways to combat stress. We can club these methods of stress management in two broad categories:
- Self Help methods
- Learnt Methods
This category covers ways of managing stress by observing its cause and effect relationship with our response and thereby controlling, eliminating or reducing the intensity of stressor.
Another way to handle ill-effect of stress is to regulate our response to the stressor by either delaying the response or reducing the intensity of response. For, e.g., if you get exhausted by driving through traffic jam and experience ‘commuting stress’. It is better to start little early to avoid heavy traffic hours or to use charted bus and listen to some relaxing music or enjoy recreational reading, It is essential to identify the stressors and be creative in handling them.
Many of our stress related reactions are due to minor, chronic and unattended health problems. Therefore it is important to value and enhance well being, by attending to health problems and getting proper treatment for them. Taking care of health would reduce the number of stressors.
Another way of managing stress is to change your life style and adapting new ways of viewing the world. A lot depends on how we view the world. It is essential to be optimistic and be objective in viewing the situation. It helps to plan an effective management of the situation without causing damage to physical and mental health. This method is a selfhelp method, where we learn to view a situation from different viewpoints. Lots of stressors can be eliminated and nullified by objectively evaluating their nuisance value and by simply ignoring or over looking them.
Some times we react blindly to the situation. Instead, we should act rationally and identify the stressor and look for alternative modes of handling these stressors. A balanced diet, sufficient sleep, some physical exercises, yoga, little entertainment and good insight can help adapt to many stressors.
Regular exercise can provide an active outlet for the physiological arousal experienced in response to stress. Regular exercise improves the efficiency of the heart, enhances the function of the lungs, maintains good circulation, lowers blood pressure, reduces fat in the blood and improves the body’s immune system. Swimming, walking, running, cycling, skipping, etc. help to reduce stress.
There are many other methods of stress management that can be learnt with the help of professionals. Few of these are:
- Relaxation training
- Bio feeaback
- Systematic desensitization
- Creative Visualization
- Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
- Meditation Procedures
It is an active skill that reduces symptoms of stress and decreases the incidence of illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Usually relaxation starts from the lower part of the body and progresses up to the facial muscles in such a way that the whole body is relaxed. Deep breathing is used along with muscle relaxation to calm the mind and relax the body.
It is a procedure to monitor and reduce the physiological aspects of stress by providing feedback about current physiological activity and is often accompanied by relaxation training. Biofeedback training involves three stages :
- Developing an awareness of the particular physiological response, e.g. heart rate,
- Learning ways of controlling that physiological response in quiet conditions; and
- Transferring that control into the conditions of everyday life.
Systematic desensitization is a procedure, in which relaxation and pleasant feelings are learned as conditioned responses to stimuli that once acted as fear producers. Take an example of an individual who is excessively afraid of dogs. Systematic desensitization would start from. may be showing the pictures of a dog, to looking at chained dog, to seeing others play with dog’and finally to touching the dog himself. This requires numbers of sessions and the progress will depend on individual’s ability to tolerate the situation and control his reaction.
It is an effective technique for dealing with stress. Creative visualisation is a subjective experience that uses imagery and imagination. Before visualising one must set oneself a realistic goal, as it helps build confidence. It is easier to visualise if one’s mind is quiet, body relaxed and eyes are closed. This reduces the risk of interference from unbidden thoughts and provides the creative energy needed for turning an imagined scene into reality.
Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
These techniques aim to inoculate people against stress. Stress inoculation training is one effective method developed by Meichenbaum. The essence of this approach is to replace negative and irrational thoughts with positive and rational ones. There are three main phases in this : assessment, stress reduction techniques, and application and followthrough. Assessment involves discussing the nature of the problem and seeing it from the viewpoint of the person/client. Stress reduction involves learning the techniques of reducing stress such as relaxation and self-instruction.
The yogic method of meditation consists of a sequence of learned techniques for refocusing of attention that brings about an altered state of consciousness. It involves such a thorough concentration that the meditator becomes unaware of any outside stimulation and reaches a different state of consciousness.
Hypnosis is also one of the methods used for treating and managing stress. Hypnosis puts the client int0.a trance like situation where the client is very suggestible. Relaxation instructions used for deep muscle relaxation may include suggestions of drowsiness or deep sleep. This state is called hypnosis. The heightened suggestibility is used to get clients to comply with direct suggestions for behaviour change. Hypnotic treatment is used to stop health threaiening habits like smoking or over- eating.